The Day After

Jan. 9, 2007

By Brian Curtis

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Brian Curtis is a CSTV football and basketball analyst and a regular writer.
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I've had some time to digest what we witnessed last night in Arizona, and despite a lack of sleep, I don't think my initial thoughts about the game have changed since 12:30 am last night. By now, columnists around the country have written about how Chris Leak proved everyone wrong, how the speed in the SEC is unmatched and how Urban Meyer may be the next Pete Carroll. They all might be right, but here's what I think:


-  What the heck happened to Troy Smith? And I mean that in the nicest possible way. This wasn't about a Heisman curse or his many off the field travels during December. This was about a very good quarterback who stunk it up.  Smith single-handedly won many a game for the Buckeyes this year, with his arm, feet or decision-making.  Monday night he displayed zip, zilch, nada. I know it's not his fault the Gator defensive ends tore through his offensive line, but how about getting out of the pocket and running for a first down? How about getting rid of the ball before you get sacked? How about getting fired up enough to force your line to do something? It seemed to me that Smith's heart just wasn't in the game. Maybe I am wrong. But go back and watch the close ups of him during the telecasts and after the game and it just seems he was OK with his play, which is certainly not OK.


-   What happened to "Big Game" Jim Tressel? On our Crystal Ball show just minutes before kickoff, we ran a feature about how good Tressel is coaching in the spotlight against good teams. A win last night would have solidified his spot among the college elite in history with two national titles in five years. But it didn't happen. His team came out flat, the play calling was a bit suspect and most unbelievably, there were no significant halftime adjustments by Tressel and his staff. How can such a good coach and his assistants disappear in the biggest game? I was shocked they chose not to throw the ball downfield. Even when they were behind, how many throws over ten yards did Smith release? I know Ted Ginn, Jr. was out, but you're telling me Ohio State has no other competent receiving threat?


As much as this game was about what Ohio State didn't do, it was about what Florida did do. Chris Leak was superb. His stats speak for themselves but what you don't see in the numbers are the great decisions he made about when to tuck the ball and run, when to throw the ball out of bounds and how to manage the game clock masterfully. Leak is one of the nicest college athletes I have ever met and he deserved that going-away party.  But the Gators were more than Leak. They were seniors and freshmen, speed and physical strength, crazy offensive sets and a ferocious defensive line that was in the Buckeye backfield all night.


Urban Meyer clearly outcoached Tressel & Co. The way the coach handled Tim Tebow and Chris Leak all year was why the Gators even had a shot at the championship. I know that you know about the record of success in his second year at his three stops, but it will be interesting to see if Meyer can get back to a title game with a team composed of kids he recruited, not a previous coach.


-Tim Tebow sure is one emotional kid. And boy, can he run the ball. What I haven't seen from him is the ability to run an offense on a consistent basis or the poise to run a passing attack. He'll have to show both next season.


-  Give kudos to Florida kicker Chris Hetland, who was awful coming into the game but nailed two key field goals.  Kicking must be all mental since the Gators were 4-of-13 on field goals during the season.


- Having written all of this, let's keep things in perspective, as I pointed out on our postgame show last night, this was one game. It doesn't diminish what Troy Smith and Ohio State did this season, it doesn't mean Jim Tressel isn't a good coach, it doesn't mean Florida can't be beat (which it was this year), it doesn't mean a Florida dynasty lies ahead. It means that on this night in Arizona, Florida crushed Ohio State and that's good enough for now.


A few other college notes:


How can any of us be surprised that Louisville's Bobby Petrino bolted? It is a bit shocking considering the contract he recently signed but this was a guy who was always on the lookout for the next best thing. The Cardinals will get Steve Kragthorpe from Tulsa, who I believe is the best among the "rising stars" in the college game. He will keep the wins coming.


- And what about Pete Carroll to the Miami Dolphins? Don't know if that's going to happen, but don't be surprised if Carroll bolts sooner rather than later. He's always told me, and many others, that he didn't hit expectations when he coached in the NFL because he didn't have control. He'll have that if he ever decides to make the jump again.


- Former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter lands in Jacksonville to be the offensive coordinator, turning down many coordinator jobs at very high profile colleges.



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